The Occasional Laser Beam Skyward
by David Noriega
Ah, Dale Crover. Whenever I think of you, Dale, I think of how deliciously fragile a rib cage can be. I think of how it’s sometimes pleasant to self-induce a headache. When I listen to you drumming on the best Melvins albums from back in the day, Dale, I can’t help but imagine you in a loincloth, sitting on a big rock, beating the shit out of the cymbals and skins with a pair of brontosaurus femurs.
Mostly, though, Dale, when I think of you I think of Gigantor on the fritz, spazzing out to the beat of some cosmic metronome, reducing a skyscraper here and a quiet residential neighborhood there to rubble with every electric jerk, maybe shooting the occasional laser beam skyward and annihilating a planet.
This is precisely why I gagged, and loudly, when I heard that you — The Melvins, the most important stoner/sludge/whatever band of the last quarter century — were going to ‘team up’ with some other band in 2006 to record (A) Senile Animal. I gagged because I realized that meant two drummers. Who could possibly deserve to sit behind a kit while Dale Fucking Crover was in the same room behind one too? Nobody. Period.
What’s worse, the other band (Big Business) was simply no good. Collaboration is one thing, but letting some mediocre cock-rock Melvins rip-off interfere with an actual Melvins album is another – it’s as if Nirvana were still around and decided to make a record with Silverchair. No good.
Then, last month, I heard they were doing it again, this time for Nude With Boots. In both instances, it turns out I got just a tad more upset than I should have. Not that I was wrong (I was right, in principle), but the albums aren’t absolutely terrible. They’re just kinda bad. They sound very simply like the Melvins – Crover and guitarist-singer Buzz Osborne, aka King Buzzo — having to tame and tailor their time-tested chemistry to the infant needs of an inferior band, which mostly just follows along timidly with what they’re doing. I get the feeling it all amounts to Dale giving that other guy some drum lessons.
Also, there is one advantage here that I neglected to consider: this means the Melvins, who’ve been putting out albums for 24 years, have a decent excuse for starting to suck a little – aside from being old, that is.
A lot of other bands could use that. Sonic Youth, for one. Another important difference between Sonic Youth and the Melvins: while Thurston Moore is one of the most profoundly humorless presences in rock (cf. his rants against the “bogus capitalist process” in The Year Punk Broke, which are hilarious for all the wrong reasons), Buzz and the Melvins are probably one of the funniest:
Buzz Osborne. Ah, Buzzo, Kind King of Sludge. When I think of you, Buzz, I think mostly of your hair, that indelible mollusk billowing in the thick endless waters of riff.
I think with great tenderness of the fact that you and your Pillsbury doughboy frame provided me with one of my first unparented concert experiences – not with the Melvins, regrettably, but with Fantômas, though it still ruled plenty.
And I think about how silly I must have looked all those times I listened to Bullhead and Lysol alone in my room, loud enough to shake some paint flakes off the ceiling of my decaying Providence home — all the little fist-pumps and head-bangs and ghost hi-hat hits (pshht) followed by air-guitar ka-djjuunnnnn‘s while the blood rushed to my face.
nude with boots cover
There’s none of that with Nude With Boots. Mostly, there is frustration. And there are longing questions hurled at this no-longer-flaking ceiling: Why, Buzz? Why, Dale? Why, when I listen to the title track off this latest album, can I only think “cheese”?
Those shakers and tambourines, that weirdly indie-sounding bass line, that asinine major pentatonic riff that only reminds me of a teenager’s first bedroom attempt at replicating an AC/DC song: why?
“Dog Islands” – The Melvins (mp3)
“Suicide In Progress” – The Melvins (mp3)
Every time I start listening to Nude With Boots, I make it through about four tracks, start feeling a little panicky, and switch right back to Stoner Witch or Houdini, which were totally awesome even though the Melvins had Atlantic execs breathing down their necks.
Buzz was the guy who got Dave Grohl to drum for Nirvana. (This was after Dale Crover drummed on a few tracks on Bleach.) In fact, the Melvins – fellow bored Aberdeen, WA compatriots – had a great deal to do with inspiring Kurt Cobain to do what he did in the first place, back in the ’80s. They inspired Boris, who took their name from a song off Bullhead and are the coolest band to emerge in the last twelve years. Don’t argue.
Also, Shirley Temple’s daughter was their bass player for a while. They also used to play this killer Black Sabbath cover:
I could go on, but this is what I’m getting at: ultimately, Buzz and Dale, it’s OK. We can forgive you. You’ve done enough for us already. You’ve just gotten yourselves entangled in a destructive relationship, an inexplicable romance with someone who’s only bringing you down. It happens. But here’s an idea: Buzz turns 45 next year. As a birthday present, dump those Big Business goons. They’ll get over it.
David Noriega is a contributor to This Recording. He lives in Bushwick. You can reach him at noriega dot david at gmail dot com.
“Joan of Arc” – The Melvins (mp3)
“Sacrifice” – The Melvins (mp3)
SLOW RIDE THE LIGHTNING
Some genius decided to screw Metallica’s classic second album Ride The Lightning, taking the 45 rpm version double LP and slowing it down to 33 rpm. The result is sludgier, heavier, and awesome for heshers. Pack yourself a couple bongloads and download it here.
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